Lighting Diagram For Dark And Moody Boudoir

Boudoir lighting diagram for dark and moody boudoir

There are only two major things to keep in mind to shoot dark and moody boudoir and they are:

  1. Position your subject between you and the light source
  2. Always be shooting towards the light at some angle

If you can remember those two things, you’ll be able to go into any room and shoot dark and moody boudoir.

This concept works using natural light from a window or door, or with artificial light using a strobe or speedlite with some kind of modifier.

It will also work with the light from a common house lamp as well. There won’t be as much throw with the light, but if you position your model close enough, you’ll get the same effect.

Okay, let’s dive into these two concepts and put some meat on them bones.

Position Your Subject Between You And The Light Source

By placing your subject between you and the light you’ll be creating what’s called short lighting.

Short lighting is when the narrower part of your subject’s face (and form) is lit while the broader side of her face (and form) is in shadow.

So, if your model is positioned between you and the light, the side facing your camera will be mostly in shadow (if the ambient light in the room is low enough).

This type of lighting (short lighting) is how you create that dark and moody look.

Always Be Shooting Towards The Light At Some Angle

Position yourself (the photographer), so that you’re always shooting towards the light at some angle. I say, “at some angle” because if you’re positioned directly in front of your model (on axis with her and the light), then you’re in silhouette territory, which is dark and moody but I think silhouettes are a category unto themselves.

So you want to be off-axis (or off-center) to a degree.

Boudoir lighting diagram

If your angle is such that you’re forming a right triangle with your subject and the light — then you’ve ventured into side lighting. 50% of your subject will be lit, while the other 50% will fall into shadow.

Boudoir Lighting Diagram For Side Light
Side Light

Once you cross that invisible line where you’re closer to the light source than your subject, your back is now at the light, and you’re shooting away from the light, then you’re utilizing broad lighting.

Broad lighting is when the broad (or wider) side of your subject’s face (and form) is lit, while the side furthest from camera (the narrow side) falls into shadow.

Boudoir lighting diagram

Broad lighting (and front lighting) are used more for a light and airy look with little to no shadows.

Walk Into Any Room And Shoot Dark And Moody Boudoir

You can now walk into any room with a window or door that lets in light, and know exactly where to position your model and yourself to produce dark and moody boudoir.

You can also utilize a room that has no windows or useable doors and use a strobe, speedlite, some type of constant light, or just a common lamp, and do the exact same thing.

There’s A Bit More To It Than That

Okay, so there is a little more to getting a dark and moody look than just positioning, such as the level of ambient light in the room, but if you understand the positioning between you, the light source, and your model, then most of the heavy lifting is done.

To find out what those other elements are to shooting dark and moody, check out, “How To Shoot Dark And Moody Boudoir Using Natural Light”.

The Exception To The Rule Shooting Dark & Moody

There’s always an exception… isn’t there?

The exception is when your light source comes from above.


Yup… from on high!

With natural light this can come in the form of a skylight or even better, a solar tunnel… or if you want to get fancy you can call it a solar skylight tunnel.

Use Solar Tunnels To Shoot Dark And Moody Boudoir

Solar tunnels are better than your standard skylight because they direct the light in a more concentrated shape much like a snoot. Think of a solar tunnel as a big snoot that directs sunlight that’s hitting your roof down into the space where you’re shooting.

Solar tunnels are lined with a super reflective material (usually some type of aluminum) that magnifies the light coming down from above… unlike a skylight which is just a window in the ceiling.

Regular skylight light doesn’t have that concentrated shape or magnification that a solar tunnel has. Its light is more dispersed and less concentrated.

Another way to think of it is a solar tunnel is like a super reflective beauty dish with a grid, while a skylight is a less reflective beauty dish with no grid.

Shooting 360 Degrees

Shooting dark and moody boudoir using the light from a solar tunnel allows you to shoot your subject at any angle in a 360 degree circumference.

Since the light is coming from above, the shadows on your subject will be evenly dispersed around her entire body (if shooting on a level plane to your subject) as opposed to a short or broad side (left or right).

The “two sides” when shooting with light from above become top and bottom.

Black & white boudoir image
Lit from above with one beauty dish

For example, if your model is lying face up, the upper portion of her body will be lit while the lower half will fall into shadow.

Once you start shooting above the level plane of your subject, from slightly above her looking down, that could be considered broad lighting (with top light).

If you shoot below the level plane of your subject, from slightly below looking up, that could be considered short lighting (with top light).

The only reason I threw that in there was if someone wanted to relate the same principles of short and broad lighting to lighting from above.

The One Drawback To Top Light

The only drawback to this kind of lighting is if you want light hitting your subject’s face you have to have your model cheat up towards the light some.

She doesn’t have to crank her neck and look directly up… just a slight head tilt towards the light will suffice.

I know this because I’ve shot a lot with one overhead beauty dish which mimics the light from a solar tunnel to some degree.

Black & white boudoir with top light
Shot with one beauty dish overhead.

With your model’s head level to camera, her eyes will be dark because her brow will block the light coming down from above. Which can be a cool effect.

However, if you have some type of bounce to reflect that light back onto her face, or have her align herself to the back edge of the beauty dish above her, you can get more light exposing her face.

However, when she’s on her back, her face will naturally be facing the light. 


Remember, this technique of shooting dark and moody boudoir applies to both natural light and artificial light. Just replace your window or door with a soft box and the rules are the same. 

The positioning is the same.

Just remember to always position your subject between you and your light source, and always be shooting (at some angle) towards the light.

Related Articles

How To Shoot Dark & Moody Boudoir Using Natural Light

Boudoir Lighting Diagrams For Natural Light

If you found this article helpful, please pass it along to someone if may also benefit.

Thanks for your time!

Charles Mitri

Founder / Lounge Boudoir

Bella Mitri Boudoir

Charles Mitri

Charles Mitri is an award-winning boudoir photographer and also founder and writer of, an educational blog and resource website for boudoir photographers worldwide. He lives in Yorktown, Virginia.

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